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Restoring Suzie Q and other treasures

Restoring Suzie Q and other treasures

Alumnae who were on campus back in the 1950s will remember Suzie Q. The beloved kilt-wearing mascot of the the women's basketball and volleyball squads has been given a facelift courtesy of students in the MAC program and staff from Queen's Archives.

Suzie Q, “The Golden Girl,” was a regular at the games involving the women’s varsity basketball and volleyball teams. She wasn’t very big – in fact, Suzie Q was less than a metre tall – but whatever she lacked in size, she more than made up for in school spirit.

Prof. Krysia Spirydowicz of the MAC progsam and Margaret Bignall of Queen's Archives work on Suzie QMargaret Bignell, Principal Conservator at Queen’s Archives (right) and Prof. Krysia Spirydowicz, Director of the Art Conservation program, give Suzie Q some TLC. (University Communications photo)

After Suzie Q was kidnapped at a women’s basketball tournament in Toronto in the late ‘50s, an uproar ensued; organizers of the Women’s intercollegiate Athletic Union outlawed team mascots and the tattered, kilt-wearing mascot was “retired” to a trophy case in the Athletics Centre. There she sat for more than 40 years. Until recently. That’s when she was transferred to Queen’s Archives (QUA) for permanent preservation.

Suzie Q came to the attention of QUA staff who work with students from the Master of Art Conservation (MAC) program (the only one of its kind in Canada) to restore valuable University and City of Kingston artifacts. Their latest Queen’s projects include restoring Suzie Q and a football signed by players of the 1922 varsity football team, the year the Tricolour won the first of three consecutive Grey Cups. The deflated ball had been on display in a trophy cabinet at Summerhill, the campus home of the Department of Alumni Relations and the Office of Advancement.

To restore and preserve both the ball and Suzie Q, Margaret Bignell, Artsci’75, MAC’77, the Principal Conservator at Queen’s Archives, last fall enlisted the help of students from the MAC program.

Corine Soueid, MAC’13, set to work restoring the football – a project that took almost eight months of painstaking effort. Soueid carefully cleaned the football so the players’ signatures were legible again, and because the ball’s rubber bladder had disintegrated, she filled the space with polyester felt. “Conservation is delicate work,” she says. “I had to be extra careful to ensure that the ball was restored to its original state and then I created a customized box to preserve it.”

Suzie Q received similar special treatment. The one-time mascot was in such sad shape that work on her, initiated in January, is still in progress. So far a team of students has restored Suzie Q’s clothes and reattached her hands. When Suzie Q traveled to the U of T and was kidnapped there, her rescuers found an ink tattoo on her back that reads: “STOLEN-Mar 2/57 TORONTO.” The tattoo won’t be removed in the restoration because it is now an important part of Suzie Q’s history and provides additional interesting historical context.

University Archivist Paul Banfield, MA’85, says, “The collaborative efforts of our staff and the MAC students enables QUA to restore, preserve, and make accessible documents and artifacts that otherwise might not be dealt with, while providing MAC students with opportunities to work on projects that let them put their theoretical knowledge to practical use. It’s a win-win situation for everyone."

Do you remember Suzie Q or what happened when she was kidnapped at the University of Toronto? If so, please write and share your memories.

[Queen's Alumni Review 2013-3 cover]